Obesity costs are playing havoc with the state budget, so what does South Carolina do? Find ways to encourage and reward healthy living?
Nope. It's going to give obese state employees more benefits.
The legislature, in its infinite wisdom, decided to fund gastric bypass surgeries for the first 100 overweight state employees who ask for them starting in January.
This, at a time when state budgets are already being choked by health-care costs.
Officials say they hope the surgeries end up saving the state through decreased obsesity-related maladies in the future. But as Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom said, "as an accountant, you can't measure hope."
Aiken Sen. Greg Ryberg's approach makes a heck of a lot more sense. This past year he suggested charging obese state employees $25 more a month in their health-care premiums, similar to smokers. Having had that idea shot down, he plans next year to propose discounted premiums for healthier employees.
Under Ryberg's proposal, responsible behavior would be rewarded. Under the current plan, irresponsible behavior is.
Then again, it's not the lawmakers' money they're experimenting with. It's yours. That makes it easier.
But as outrageous as the obesity surgeries are, at nearly $25,000 a pop, the most offensive part of the state's actions on health care was its decision to use $19 million of your tax money to fully cover state employees' increased premiums due to the new federal health care law -- in order to keep state employees' premiums the same. And to pay for surgery for state employees who've eaten too much.
Again, they're using the private sector's money to do that.
You remember that when your company's health-care premiums for next year are announced this fall -- and they've gone up by as much as $2,000 for your family, while your tax dollars will also be covering the increase for state employees. In effect, you'll be paying double.
That's a lot of meals!